By Rich Mancuso: thenyextra.com
During this pandemic and abbreviated baseball season the schedule is rapidly changing due to COVID-19. Players, managers, coaches and personnel are adapting on the field to the medical protocols
And the broadcasters who deliver the games on television and radio are also learning to adapt with the changes. The Yankees as a team are free of COVID, though the schedule has played havoc with the Phillies during the past week.
So here we are with the Yankees radio booth. The unexpected change was made Wednesday night at the last minute when longtime radio voice John Sterling came up ill.
The executives at WFAN Sports radio quickly needed a pinch hitter to join Suzyn Waldman.
Now at the Microphone is Rickie Ricardo, the Yankees Spanish radio voice over from WADO. He quickly stepped in, delivered and adjusted. It was a last minute situation and he was scheduled to join Waldman again Thursday night at Yankee Stadium as the team continued their series at Baltimore.
Ricardo, in his seventh year calling games on WADO, painted the picture. There was also instant chemistry with Waldman. It’s not easy filling in the shoes for a legend like John Sterling.
“Very smoothe, she’s a pro’s pro,” Ricardo said. It was the first time they have worked together as a play-by-play team.
So, Thursday, Ricardo, Cuban, though born in Newark and raised in Orlando Florida, packed his bags and made the trip off the George Washington Bridge to the Major Deegan from his in- season home of West New York, New Jersey.
“It was very little adjusting,” he said about working with Waldman. In his words, “It worked organically.”
Sterling is okay and tested negative for COVID. He is expected to return Friday night when the Yankees have their long awaited home opener in the Bronx against the Boston Red Sox.
“I’m not trying to be John, I’m just going to be me what you get in Spanish, an English version,” Ricardo said. “I was sitting there reading the game notes and they said, ‘Switch sides, John’s sick.”
That was 5:30 Wednesday evening. Broadcasters, similar to the players. Arrive at the ballpark three hours prior to game time so they can prepare their notes and gather information.
Now, because this is a different norm, broadcasters and media are not allowed access to the field or clubhouse areas. Talking to players and getting that information or sidebar is done via a ZOOM video conference call.
It does make the job so much different, however, Ricardo is used to the adjustments. He also is the Spanish play-by-play voice for Philadelphia Eagles football and manages to flip flop the sports schedule.
He also hosts an occasional talk show on WIP Sports Talk Radio in Philadelphia.
Now, let’s return to the Yankees broadcast. Listening, you expected to hear John Sterling, 82-years old, who worked 5,060 games without a break in the radio booth since 1989.
Last July, the streak was snapped. Sterling needed some of that needed rest. Ricardo, then, did not get the call. He was not disappointed. This is part of a difficult business, and it’s understandable how station managers will take a different route.
Perhaps, if and when John Sterling calls it a day, Rickie Ricardo will be considered as the new-play-by-play radio voice of the Yankees.
And, his first English play-by-play call was clean. No mistakes, no overstepping Waldman. They sat in different booths but could see each other through a glass partition.
He and Waldman worked off three television monitors and getting feeds from the YES Yankees television network and MLB. Because of medical protocols, teams are limiting personnel to travel for the road games.
Broadcasters are working remote angles and doing their best calling games at studios and the home ballparks off the monitors. So, Ricardo, with experience broadcasting many games from the Bronx, when the Yankees are away, was used to that adjustment of calling games off the monitors.
“You get the full spectrum of what’s happening,” Ricardo said. “I’m used to calling off monitors. We are inside the stadium in a booth, in an empty stadium. “
With Waldman, there was the crowd noise that could be heard. That has helped to enhance the broadcasts that are piped in at the ballparks.
“Noise helps a lot,” Ricardo said. “A lot of people thought it would sound phony.”
For the broadcast Thursday night, Rickie Ricardo,( born name Jorge Lima Jr. ) will be relaxed and ready to make another adjustment. He has a home run call in Spanish, not like those that are heard from John Sterling.
But we may finally hear that home run call in English. They are original and have become synonymous with Rickie Ricardo as they are with John Sterling.
“I will work on something for Thursday,” he said. “It will be entertaining but I am not trying to be John.”
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